Andrew Thomas (prosecutor)

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Andrew Thomas
26th County Attorney of Maricopa County
In office
January 3, 2005 – April 1, 2010
Preceded by Rick Romley
Succeeded by Bill Montgomery
Personal details
Born 1966 (age 47–48)
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Missouri,

Harvard University

Andrew Peyton Thomas (born 1966) is an American politician, author, and disbarred attorney.[1] He served as the county attorney for Maricopa County in Arizona until April 1, 2010, when he announced his resignation, as required by Arizona law, in order to run for the office of Arizona Attorney General.[2] Thomas was the subject of an FBI investigation regarding abuse of power and unethical behavior while county attorney.[3][4][5] On April 10, 2012, Thomas was disbarred by a disciplinary panel of the Arizona State Supreme Court for his actions as county attorney.[6]


Thomas was born in Long Beach, California in 1966 and spent most of his childhood in Missouri's Ozarks. He received a B.A. in political science from the University of Missouri in 1988 and a J.D. from Harvard University in 1991.[7]

Thomas is married to Ann Estrada Thomas, with whom he has four children.[7]

Early career

Thomas moved to Arizona to join a law firm in Phoenix, where he practiced civil litigation, and left in 1994 to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Arizona, followed by posts as deputy counsel and criminal justice policy advisor to governor Fife Symington III. Thomas later became chief attorney at the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Thomas joined the Maricopa County Attorney's Office as a Deputy County Attorney in 2003, and ran successfully for Maricopa County Attorney in 2004. He took office in January 2005. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2002 for Arizona Attorney General, which he lost to Terry Goddard.

Maricopa County Attorney


As County Attorney, Andrew Thomas focused his agenda and policies towards the rights of crime victims, in addition to adopting tough policies on violent crime, child exploitation, identity theft and repeat offenders. During his term, Thomas also made considerable effort on prosecuting human smugglers and illegal immigrants. Thomas also helped draft and campaigned for Proposition 100, which sought to end the right to bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies, and Proposition 301, which toughened sanctions for abuse of methamphetamines. In 2006, the voters of Arizona approved both measures.[8]

Under Thomas, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office expanded their community outreach programs by sponsoring informational Internet sites, including publishing DUI offenders' photographs[9] and news roundups pertaining to regional crime[10] and illegal immigration.[11]

Matt Bandy prosecution

In 2006, Thomas' office was in the national spotlight for the prosecution of Matt Bandy, a minor charged with distributing child pornography. Bandy, who initially faced 90 years in prison without parole, claimed the images on his computer were downloaded by a virus or Trojan horse.[12] Bandy eventually accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to 3 felony counts of showing a Playboy magazine to three of his 16 year old school classmates. The case was featured on ABC News' 20/20.[13]

2008 County Attorney election

Thomas faced Democrat Tim Nelson in his 2008 re-election campaign. Nelson criticized Thomas' spending of federal RICO funds,[14] while Thomas made an issue of Nelson's acceptance of approximately $25,000 in donations from criminal defense attorneys.[15] Thomas' opponents also challenged his decision to spend $27 million on outside attorneys, including Thomas' former employer, Dennis Wilenchik.[16]

Feud with Maricopa County Board of Supervisors

Thomas has engaged in a high-profile feud with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who are responsible for allocating funds to his office. This feud, in which he has been joined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has resulted in a number of lawsuits, with legal costs to the county for recent disputes exceeding $2.6 million.[17]

The feud has also resulted in Arpaio investigating and Thomas filing multiple indictments against County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox.[18]

Thomas originally indicted Stapley on December 2, 2008, on 118 felony and misdemeanor counts dealing primarily with financial disclosure irregularities.[19] In an effort to mediate differences with the Board of Supervisors, Thomas transferred the case and criminal investigations to the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office.[20] All of the counts in the indictment were subsequently dismissed, as it was found that Stapley had not actually violated any County regulations regarding financial disclosures.[21][22] Thomas then took the case back from the Yavapai County Attorney's office,[citation needed] and obtained a second indictment against Stapley, on 27 similar felony and misdemeanor counts, on December 8, 2009.

Thomas also obtained the indictment of Wilcox on the same day, charging her with 36 felony counts related to failing to disclose business loans she took out from the business finance arm of an organization which had business before the Board of Supervisors.[23] In February, 2010, Pima County Judge John Leonardo, appointed by a special master of the Arizona Supreme Court to hear the matter, ruled that Thomas had acted unethically, and had prosecuted Wilcox for political gain and retaliation, despite conflicts of interest that should have precluded his office from prosecuting.[24] In January, 2011, After a 10-month review, Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores concluded there was insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case against Wilcox.[25]

Related to the Wilcox indictment, and a subsequent attempt by the Sheriff's office to intimidate her attorney, the Arizona Republic editorialized that Thomas and Arpaio were misusing their powers to "intimidate and harass their political enemies."[26]

Feud with Maricopa County Superior Court judges

In March, 2009, Maricopa Superior Court Criminal Presiding Judge Gary Donahoe ruled that a conflict of interest between Thomas and the county Board of Supervisors over the investigation of a planned court tower created the "appearance of evil" for Thomas.[27] Thomas has made many statements, both publicly and in legal filings, that judges in Maricopa County Superior Court are biased against him.[28][29][30][31][32]

On December 1, 2009, Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that they "filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, leading Superior Court judges [including Judge Gary Donahoe], and a private law firm shared by the Board and Court, alleging the defendants have conspired illegally to block criminal investigations and prosecutions of themselves, particularly those related to the new $341 million Superior Court Tower and Supervisor Donald Stapley Jr."[33][34]

On December 9, 2009, Thomas held a press conference to announce that he had filed criminal charges against Judge Donahoe on three felony counts: bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and hindering prosecution. Thomas presented no evidence of actual wrongdoing on Donahoe's part, other than several rulings with which he disagreed. Thomas filed the charges without first seeking a grand jury indictment.[35][36][37][38]

Subsequent to the filing of the RICO suit and filing of charges against Judge Donahoe, a number of defense attorneys filed motions in Maricopa Superior Court to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney's office from prosecuting cases. Those motions later became moot, after the RICO suit and criminal charges against Judge Donahoe were dropped by Thomas. (See below.) [39]

On December 23, 2009, the Arizona Supreme Court appointed former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor as Special Master to administer all matters arising from the controversy.[citation needed]

In February, 2010, Pima County Superior Court Judge John S. Leonardo ruled that:

[T]he County Attorney [Thomas] has the following conflicts of interest between his duty to impartially exercise his prosecutorial discretion; and
1) his efforts to retaliate against members of the [Maricop County Board of Supervisors] ...for actions they allegedly carried out in concert with each other against his office and against him personally, as alleged in the civil RICO complaint;
2) his attempts to gain political advantage by prosecuting those who oppose him politically ...;
3) his political alliance with the Maricopa County Sheriff [Arpaio] who misused the power of his office to target members of the [Maricopa County Board of Supervisors] for criminal investigation;
4) his duty to provide confidential, uncompromised legal advice to members of the [Maricopa County Board of Supervisors]... on matters pertaining to the indictment [referring to Mary Rose Wilcox].[40]

Subsequent to this ruling, which dismissed an indictment against Maricopa Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Thomas announced that he was dismissing an indictment against Maricopa Supervisor Don Stapley, dismissing the federal RICO suit, and dropping the charges against Judge Donahoe.

In August, 2010, a Greenlee County Judge ordered Grand Jury transcripts released that showed Thomas, in January, 2010, had tried to indict several members of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, as well as the Maricopa County Mangager, his assistant, an attorney working for the Board of Supervisors, and Judge Donahoe. Based on the ruling by Judge Leonardo, Thomas, through his assistant, requested that the Grand Jury return the case to his office, to be forwarded to a special prosecutor. Instead, the Grand Jury took the rare action of ordering the inquiry ended. One of Thomas' own prosecutors had explained to the jury during orientation that to "end the inquiry" meant "the case is so bad, there's no further evidence that could be brought to you folks."[41]

Rather than ending the inquiry, as ordered by the Grand Jury, Thomas' office subsequently referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice Public Integrity Section.[42] The DOJ responded that they did not intend to review the file. Further, the acting chief of the section responded "In these circumstances, I was dismayed to learn that your mere referral of information to the Public Integrity Section was cited and relied upon in a pleading in federal court [the now-ended Arpaio/Thomas civil RICO lawsuit] and then used as a platform for a press conference."[43][44]

Despite multiple press conferences, and a complete set of Grand Jury Transcripts, there is no record of Thomas having presented any evidence of bribery by Judge Donahoe.[45]

On May 21, 2010, Judge Donahoe filed a notice of claim, a precursor to filing suit against Maricopa County, alleging abuse of power by Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio, and demanding $4.75 million to settle his claims.[46][47]

Arizona State Bar investigations

In 2008, the State Bar of Arizona launched an investigation of Thomas. In response, Thomas filed a Petition for Special Action with the Arizona Supreme Court in an effort to halt the investigation. [2] The Arizona State Bar filed a response noting that "a lawyer who happens to be an elected public officer... cannot simply opt out of the lawyer-regulatory system claiming the privilege of his elected office." [3] Thomas' private attorneys filed a reply on July 2, 2008. [4]. Thomas has also posted a call to reform the Arizona Bar on the Maricopa County Attorney web site. [5] On August 15, 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court denied his Petition for Special Action and ruled that the State Bar could proceed with the ethics investigations against Thomas. The State Bar dismissed those complaints in March, 2009.

In March, 2010, The Arizona Supreme Court, at the request of the State Bar of Arizona, appointed a special investigator to look into accusations of misconduct against Thomas, after a Pima County judge ruled that he acted unethically in investigating county supervisors for political gain.[48]

Thomas has claimed that the state Bar investigation into his ethical conduct is stacked against him and orchestrated to damage his campaign for state attorney general. Officials involved in the investigation have dismissed Thomas' allegations as baseless.[49]

Thomas filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court in an attempt to end investigations into his ethical conduct. The court refused to end the investigation.[50]

On August 18, 2010, the attorney appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court to investigate Thomas' conduct confirmed that he had been followed by private investigators during his trips to Phoenix to work on the case. Dennis Wilenchik, for whose law firm Thomas worked prior to becoming County Attorney, and who later worked for Thomas as a special prosecutor, confirmed that his firm had hired the private investigators.[51]

On December 6, 2010, the report from the Arizona Supreme Court was released, and with the recommendation that Thomas be disbarred. The report alleges 32 ethics rules violations by Thomas, involving conflicts of interest, dishonesty, misrepresentation, filing a frivolous suit, and filing charges against county officials solely to embarrass or burden them. The report also alleges that Thomas engaged in criminal conduct and "conspired... with others to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate Judge (Gary) Donahoe" by filing a criminal complaint against him.[52]

The investigative report was provided to a judge appointed by the Supreme Court, who made the decision to move forward with disciplinary recommendations against Thomas. The State Bar of Arizona's probable cause orders, signed by Judge Charles E. Jones, state that "Ethical violations by respondent, as described by Independent Bar Counsel, are far-reaching and numerous. Evidence thus far adduced portrays a reckless, four-year campaign of corruption and power abuse by respondent as a public official, undertaken at enormous and mostly wasteful cost to the taxpayers... Motivation for much of the alleged impropriety appears retaliatory, intended to do personal harm to the reputations of judges, county supervisors and other county officials... Actions by respondent appear intent on intimidation, focused on political gain, and appear fully disconnected from professional and prosecutorial standards long associated with the administration of justice ..." Judge Jones added a 33rd ethical violation in the probable cause orders: that Thomas failed to submit substantive responses to the investigator.[53]

Thomas has denied any wrongdoing.[54]

2010 Candidacy for Arizona Attorney General

Thomas resigned as Maricopa County Attorney in April, 2010, in order to run for the office of Arizona Attorney General. After a divisive campaign, in which he was endorsed and supported by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio,[55] Thomas was defeated in the August, 2010, primary election by Republican candidate Tom Horne.[56][57][58]


In April, 2012, a three member panel appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court voted unanimously to disbar Thomas. According to the panel, Thomas "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law" while serving as Maricopa County Attorney. The panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Thomas and his deputy brought unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including four state judges and the state attorney general.[59] "Were this a criminal case," the panel concluded, "we are confident that the evidence would establish this conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt."[60]

Thomas has denied wrongdoing, calling the bar investigation a "political witch hunt."[61] While he had the opportunity to appeal his disbarment, he chose not to.[62]

Thomas' disbarment was the most expensive disciplinary proceeding ever in Arizona, costing approximately $577,000.[63]

2014 Campaign for Arizona Governor

In May, 2014, Thomas filed nominating petitions to get on the Republican ballot as a governor's candidate in the August 26, 2014 primary election.[64]



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  4. ^ Wingett, Yvonne; Michael Kiefer (2010-04-11). "FBI expands Joe Arpaio probe to Maricopa County Attorney". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2010-04-11. 
  5. ^ Kiefer, Michael; Kiefer (2010-03-31). "Civil-racketeering case may prove Andrew Thomas' undoing". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2010-04-11. 
  6. ^ Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon Disbarred
  7. ^ a b "Andrew Thomas, Faculty Associate". Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Faculty profile. Arizona State University. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
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  9. ^ "". Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
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  11. ^ "Illegal Immigration Journal". Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  12. ^ Fenske, Sarah (01/25), "Doubting Thomas", Phoenix New Times 
  13. ^ [[1]]. [29]. 2007-01-12.
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  30. ^ "County Employee Blows Whistle on Judicial Bias" (Press release). 2008-12-17. [dead link]
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  36. ^ Roth, Zachary (2009-12-11). "In Boldest Move Yet, Arpaio And Ally Charge Judge With Bribery, Despite Lack Of Evidence". TPMMuckraker. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  37. ^ "County Files Criminal Complaint Against High Profile Judge". ABC15. 2009-12-09. [dead link]
  38. ^ Thomas, Andrew P. (2009-12-09). "Criminal Complaint Filed against Presiding Criminal Judge" (PDF) (Press release). Maricopa County Attorney. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  39. ^ Fenske, Sarah (2009-12-18). "County Attorney's Office Should be Disqualified from Trying Cases, Defense Attorneys Say". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
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  44. ^ Carter, Terry (2010-04-01). "Claim of a Federal Corruption Investigation Backfires" (April 2010). ABA Journal. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  45. ^ Stern, Ray (2010-05-20). "Andrew Thomas, Candidate for Attorney General, Refuses to Discuss Why He Charged Judge Donahoe With Bribery; Evidence Never Presented". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  46. ^ Stern, Ray (2010-05-21). "Gary Donahoe Files Claim for $4.75 Million Against County, Alleging Abuse of Power by Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  47. ^ Manning, Michael C. (2010-05-21). "Re: NOTICE OF CLAIM – On behalf of Judge Gary Donahoe" (PDF). Stinson Morrison Hecker. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
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External links